Spring awakenings

My first month at the farm has flown by in a flurry of moving, cleaning, painting and unpacking. The house was in a dirtier state than I’d feared, with clean up of cat feces in the corners of many rooms, and mouse droppings from all the kitchen cabinets. And then I started getting flea bites on my ankles, so now even without the presence of all those cats (and apparently mice), I’ve got to try and eliminate fleas…who only seem to want to bite me. Cluster flies also appeared with the warming weather, whose frenzied buzzing emphasizes to me how important it is for me to fix the screens and seals on all the windows! It almost makes me wish for the frozen hibernation of winter ;P

But not all the new life around the farm has been unwelcome to me. There are snowdrops all around the yard and the shoots of bulbs are pushing their way out of the soil. Yellow crocuses have started blooming, and I even found a patch of dwarf butterfly irises!

Dwarf butterfly irises found in a sheltered patch by the cedars to the east of the house

I’ve also driven around between the farm, Toronto and Waterloo so much that I’ve likely wracked up more mileage than I would have driven in a year of living and working in Toronto. I think that’s been the hardest thing for me to get used to on the farm, not the isolation, bugs or being in a new house, but rather how much time is spent travelling anywhere. I used to be incapable of driving more than an hour a day without feeling like I’m dozing off at the wheel, but now I can actually drive 3-4 hours in a day and not be too tired out by it. It’s reassuring to me that I have adapted so much as the distance of the farm from the GTA had really bothered me…but now that I’m capable of driving that distance, I don’t feel like I’m as far away. I have made a concession to all this long distance driving in that I’ve finally broken down and gotten a cell phone. The last thing I’d want is to be unable to access my CAA membership benefits if the minivan has any issues on the road.

While I have been very preoccupied by moving tasks in March, I really do need to get moving on farm tasks. My fields need to be frost seeded so that I can hopefully get a jump on weeds. I also need to find a farmer with a tractor who’d be willing to cultivate my vegetable field for me and set up the beds for planting. And while I have all my vegetable seeds, I don’t have any tools yet other than a wheel hoe. A rototiller’s at the top of my list of tools, as well as seeders. And I need to get seeding indoors so that I will have peppers, eggplants and tomatoes this year. So much to do!

The house also needs a lot of work on its exterior, from repainting/caulking/screening the windows, to getting the roof replaced. The barn’s also in need of some work to prevent any further water damage. The rain of spring has certainly revealed where water comes in! The grounds around the house need a lot of cleanup to reveal the flower beds and clear up all the branch debris from the trees over the winter (all to be saved for arrangements or as fuel for a bonfire). I’ve definitely got my hands full! For all those of you who may be paying condo fees and complaining about them…consider all the work you don’t have to do to maintain the building and grounds and all of a sudden, those monthly fees seem a lot more reasonable!

I’m currently in Toronto for a week to help my sister with her booth at the One of a Kind show in Toronto which runs from April 1-5. If you can make it to the show, you should definitely come visit us in the Rising Stars section at the ‘House of Hsueh’ booth (J-45). Just walking through the Direct Energy centre today and seeing all the different artisan booths being set up has been exciting as there are so many beautiful things being made by creative minds and hands. I know I won’t be able to resist buying some things, but I’m happy to be supporting all these artisans directly. And I hope my sister’s products are a hit and that she sells her whole stock!

After the show, I’m back to the farm to get working on all that needs to be done. My goals for April on the farming side are to get my fields taken care of for the season (via cover cropping or by finding a local farmer to grow grain on them), my seedlings started and lining up someone with a tractor to cultivate my vegetable plot for me once the ground is defrosted and dry enough. On the house side, I’m aiming to have everything fixed and spruced up for May 30 when I’m planning to have my farm warming party. Hopefully various people will come visit to help out and/or keep me company!

This is the story of my journey into sustainable agriculture. From the streets of downtown Toronto, to the farm land of southern Ontario, I hope to discover the techniques and practices that work for me in both mind and heart.

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